Get Pop-Cultured with Brian K. Vaughan

This July, we’ll be chatting with some comics superstars, hosting some exciting giveaways, and celebrating pop culture all month long! We are elated to kick off this year’s Get Pop-Cultured Month with an exclusive interview with the mastermind behind the epic comic series, Saga. That’s right – we got to chat with Brian K. Vaughan himself!

If you’re a fan of comics and graphic novels, chances are you’re very familiar with the brilliant mind that is Brian K. Vaughan. He’s written for big names like Marvel Comics and DC Comics, but is probably best known for his own fantastically complex stories, matched only by their equally fantastic illustrations. One of his most famous works, Saga, takes readers through an epic interstellar adventure with strong, unique characters. Though his characters live in a world wildly different than our own, their relationships feel real and their lives seem incredibly relatable. We were thrilled to be given the opportunity to pick Vaughan’s sapient brain and share it with our readers of The College Juice.

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Q: You have quite the diverse background, from writing comic books and bestselling graphic novels, to writing and producing HUGE shows like Lost and Under the Dome. Can you pick a favorite form or medium to write for?

Comics, no question.  I love television, but nothing beats the creative freedom of comics, where you’re only limited by your imagination.

Q: What are some of the major differences and similarities between writing for TV and writing comics/graphic novels?

Well, they’re both visual mediums that are excellent for telling serialized stories, but television is much more expensive to produce and requires many more creators, which inevitably leads to compromise.  Comics allow writers and artists to have a much more unfiltered relationship with their audience.

Q: Have you ever tried your hand at the illustrations for your comics and novels? Or do you stick strictly to words?

No, I can’t draw a bath!  I’d be sunk without my significantly more talented collaborators.

Q: Where did the idea for Saga come from?

I had recently become a father, and I desperately wanted to write about the experience, but I quickly learned that nothing is more boring than stories about other people’s kids.  So I thought I could “Trojan Horse” the themes I wanted to explore inside a more exciting and visually spectacular fantasy space opera.

Q: The relationships you’ve built between your characters is fascinating. They feel very complex and real, different than in many other comics. How do you create – and then really expand upon – that type of interaction and sense of “realness” among characters? Is there a process you work through?

I’m inspired by two things: the real people in my life and the fictional characters that Fiona draws.  When I think about my loved ones and then look at Fiona’s incredible designs, characters like Alana and Marko just come to life.  I wish I could explain it better than that, but after writing comics for almost twenty years, the whole process has become weirdly intuitive for me.

Q: Saga was nominated for – and won several – awards including a few Eisner Awards. To what do you attribute its success?

100% to Fiona Staples.  She takes my strange, fringe ideas and makes them beautiful and relatable to all readers, regardless of their backgrounds.  She’s a living legend.

Q: What has been the biggest influence on your work throughout the years? And does it change from project to project?

I’m always influenced by whatever frightens or confuses me.  Y: The Last Man was about my relationships with the opposite sex, Ex Machina was about politics after 9/11, and Saga is about the fears and joys of parenthood.  Writing is cheap therapy for me.

Q: If you could adapt one book/comic book/graphic novel to the big screen, what would it be?

I’m not too interested in adaptations, even though I’ve worked on a few.  I love comics, and I prefer to think of them as the finished product rather than a blueprint for some other medium.

Q: What’s your advice for aspiring writers and graphic novel enthusiasts who wish to pursue it as a career?

Never forget that you are less important than the artist, so find great people to collaborate with and always treat them well.

Q: When pursuing their “dream career”, how do you recommend students stay motivated? Were there any obstacles or struggles you had to work through on your way to success?

A dream job is still a job, and there will always be frustrations and disappointments.  You just have to keep writing, no matter what, every single day.  Writer’s block is just another way of saying video games.  Get to work!

Q: Finally, what are YOU reading right now? Any favorite graphic novels out there you would recommend?

I just picked up The Complete Eightball by Daniel Clowes, which features a few of the best comics ever created.  Mandatory reading for everyone who loves graphic novels.

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We loved the sage advice that Vaughan shared with us and were so impressed by how humble he is. Are you a Saga or Brian K. Vaughan fan? Share your thoughts with us on Twitter or in the comments below!

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